Nestled along the Ohio River, Marietta is one of Ohio’s hidden gems. This small city has a rich history and it’s the perfect day trip from Columbus.
From incredible food to amazing nature to fascinating history, Marietta may not be on your “must visit” list, but it totally should be. As the oldest city in the state of Ohio, Marietta has a rich history and plenty of fun things to do on a visit.
There’s so much to do and see in Marietta, so let’s get planning.
Ohio River Sternwheel Festival
If you’re visiting in September, you’ve got to plan your visit to include the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. Over 30 sternwheel ships will line the riverbank in Marietta. Festival attendees can enjoy paddle-wheelers, events, and the famous fireworks display. Learn more here.
The Marietta Earthworks is an archaeological site located at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. Most of this complex earthwork, built by the people of the Hopewell people, is now covered by the modern city of Marietta. Archaeologists have dated the ceremonial site’s construction to approximately 100 BCE to 500 CE.
The complex includes the Sacra Via, three walled enclosures, the Quadranaou, Capitolium, and at least two other additional platform mounds, and the Conus burial mound. The Washington County Library now sits atop the Capitolium and makes for a perfect starting point on your historical adventure.
The sole feature of the complex that remains fully intact is the 30-foot Conus Mound, one of many burial mounds that still remain around the state. The mound is now the centerpiece of a cemetery.
Chartered in 1835, Marietta College served as a stop on the Underground Railroad for enslaved persons who were escaping the horrors of slavery in the South. The city of Marietta and the students at the college held strong beliefs of abolitionism and the area served as an important stop for those fleeing toward freedom in Canada.
You’ll find a plaque dedicating the area outside of the Ohio River Museum, which just so happens to be our next historical stop.
Campus Martius and Ohio River Museum
The Ohio River played a crucial part in the birth of modern America. At the Ohio River Museum, you can explore exhibits that focus on the history of the Ohio River and its importance relating to the expansion of the US, the Golden Age of the steamboat, and the river’s natural history.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Castle, built around 1855, is one of Marietta’s most beautiful historic homes. This Victorian masterpiece offers an incredible glimpse of restoration and reproductions throughout. You can take a guided tour of The Castle to see this beautiful 19th-century gem up close.
Broughtons Nature and Wildlife Education Area
This 800-acre park and preserve is the perfect place to spend some time soaking up the natural beauty of Marietta. There are hiking trails, disc golf courses, picnic areas, and several wetland areas that are home to some of Ohio’s most unique species of wildlife.
One unique way to check out the city is by hopping on a Trolley Tour. The tour includes stories about the city and stops at a variety of historical sites throughout town. The tours are available seasonally, so be sure to visit their Facebook page before planning your visit.
Hidden Marietta Haunted tours
If spooky vibes are your jam, then you’ve got to book a tour with Hidden Marietta. From local folklore to ghost tours, you’ll get to hear all of the tallest tales this historic city has to offer.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Since Marietta sits at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a day on the water. You can rent kayaks or canoes from Marietta Adventure Company.
Valley Gem Sternwheeler
If a day on the water sounds great but you’d rather enjoy the views than do the paddling, you can hop aboard The Valley Gem, a sternwheeler ship that paddles along the Ohio River. They offer both sightseeing tours and dinner cruises.
With a city so steeped in history, it’s no surprise that one of the best ways to take in the sights is by riding in a horse-drawn carriage. These aren’t guided tours, they’re just a fantastic way to enjoy Marietta. They are only available May through October. Even though a fall ride may be a little chilly, it will be worth it when the leaves begin to change and the city is full of gorgeous fall foliage.
Have dinner at BoatHouse BBQ
This award-winning restaurant is one of the best waterfront restaurants in the state. They have a massive menu which means it’s the perfect place to eat with the whole family because there will definitely be something on the menu for everyone. Plus the views of the River are unmatched.
Grab a drink
You can end your road trip to the river by grabbing a beer or a glass of wine at either Marietta Brewing Company or Marietta Wine Cellars. The brewery offers some delicious craft beer while the wine cellar offers not only a fantastic wine selection but also an area to sip and enjoy accompanying small bites.
Stay the Night
If you decide you want to extend your day trip, spending the night at The Historic Lafayette Hotel is the way to go. Named for Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, this 77-room hotel has been impressing visitors since it opened in 1918. The rooms have unique themes and there’s nothing quite like the restaurant inside the historic hotel, The Gunroom.